After 112 unique events across 82 venues, Brighton Digital Festival 2018 has concluded for another year.
‘Looking back on BDF18, I’m overwhelmed by the quality of the programme this year. The events dreamed up and organised by the BDF community have been exceptional and contributed along with our in-house programme to an incredibly rich, thought-provoking, fun month’ — Laurence Hill, Festival Director
This year 77 organisers contributed to the festival’s open programme, demonstrating a welcome participation by all. These were delivered alongside high-quality commissioned arts and education programming by Brighton Digital Festival (BDF). These commissions were: Uncommon Natures, an exhibition at Phoenix Brighton curated by Festival Director, Laurence Hill, from The Lumen Prize for Digital Art shortlist — providing an opportunity to see work from some of the most exciting digital artists from across the world.
The Messy Edge, BDF’s in-house conference at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts where some of the social, cultural and political implications of technology were unpacked and dominant perspectives challenged.
VoiceOver Brighton — a social radio project for the trans community by Umbrellium in collaboration with artist and performance maker, Emma Frankland, that BDF commissioned for this year’s festival. With the belief that the voices of all people need to be heard in order to inform the creation of a collective future that is better for all — 25 members of Brighton’s trans and non-binary community uploaded their thoughts and responses to Emma Frankland’s provocations into a personal radio box. Those declared as a public response where then exhibited as part of the festival at Pop-Up Brighton.
Permanently located at the University of Brighton’s Huxley Building, Duality of Life — an interactive piece of public digital art created by Nexus Studios, an Academy and Emmy Award nominated animations studio — was commissioned by Brighton Digital Festival together with University of Brighton and Brighton and Hove City council and unveiled during this year’s festival. Duality of Life uses bio-inspired algorithms and machine learning to react in real-time to its surroundings and possesses peculiarly human traits.
The final event from this year’s exploration of digital culture was ThinkNation: Young People Creating Tech Solutions For Big Social Challenges. A chance for young people to team up with mentors from tech, creative arts, and businesses to explore how technology can provide solutions for society’s biggest problems — an event which signals the future conversations BDF hopes to encourage.
BDF continued to support artists and event organisers in all stages of their careers this year with opportunities to create work and events through six Grassroots Awards, sponsored by Brandwatch and Southern Water. One example of this was local Digital Artist Thomas Buckley’s Come Inside It’s Raining, a large-scale immersive installation of light and sound projections which filled a beautiful grade II listed chapel with rain. This installation was a BDF co-commission with The Spire together with Grassroots funding.
Other Grassroots awarded events included: Juno Dawson’s Lovely Trans Literary Salon — an evening where acclaimed writer Juno Dawson welcomed some of her favourite trans and non-binary authors to the Marlborough Theatre to celebrate their achievements and showcase their work. Platform B’s Next Generation Radio Launch, which saw a Brighton and Hove bus transform into a fully mobile pop-up studio for the youth-led radio station to broadcast live from in various venues to celebrate their FM launch. Curio Conference: content and curiosity — a day of speakers sharing personal accounts of following their curiosity and the chance for participants to explore their own. The MakerClub Clean up the Ocean Challenge (supported by Southern Water) invited young people (aged 8–13) in Brighton to design solutions to the global issue of plastic in the ocean, which were displayed at ONCA’s new gallery, The Barge, at Brighton Marina. Finally, Tiny Disco’s transformed disused phone boxes into pop-up discos, with music from local musicians and producers to showcase the city’s creativity and talents.
There was also the chance to see the UK premiere of Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s Chalkroom which launched as part of the festival in a temporary, themed space outside the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. In this celebrated VR work (which has previously been shown at MASS MoCa (USA), the Venice International Film Festival and Taipei Museum of Fine Arts) you could attempt to take a solo flight in a stylised virtual world, moving around enormous structures of words, drawings and stories, guided by Laurie Anderson’s voice.
Other highlights from this year’s festival included The Old Market’s TOMtech programme, which presented some of the best and most-talked about VR. There were also picks from Sheffield Doc/Fest Alternate Realities programme at Lighthouse and a season of electronic music, audiovisual installation at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts including Max Cooper and Architecture Social Club, Suzanne Ciani, Martin Messier and Gazelle Twin.
Also prevalent to this years programming were engagements with the current issues around women in tech. Sussex Innovation Centre hosted their first hackathon, SINC_HACK >17% to combat the statistic that currently in the UK women make up just 17% of tech sector employees. As well as Brighton Digital Women Q&A: How Do You Get Into Digital? and the return of an ever-popular SheSays: The Future Female — a special digital-edition of SheSays Brighton, an award-winning organisation that runs free mentorship and events to women in the creative industry. Sussex Humanities Lab also hosted an event to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day — Beyond Numbers, a free event of inspiring and empowering talks that celebrated and explored everything from the history of women’s role in tech, to pushing gender boundaries and ‘hacktivism’.
There was also a focus at this year’s festival on using tech for good and ensuring the future — which is being shaped by digital culture — is more inclusive and sustainable, with Tech for Good Brighton Meetup and Tech-take-back events, bringing people together to explore these issues. There was also a look to the future with panel discussions such as What is the Future of Work for Generation Z? and how tech can be used for well-being with Knowledge Hub: Psytech for Wellbeing.
This year there were also 8 Open Studios and 11 meetups, as well as the chance to develop new skills with 14 workshops, including events from codebar Brighton, who provide free programming workshops for underrepresented people. BDF was also proud to support 21 educational events for young people including Creative Process Digital Apprenticeship Recruitment Event and 12 educational events aimed at older people, such as Supporting People in Later Life to get Online and Digital Workshops for Older People.
Thank you to everyone who was involved and who helped to make Brighton Digital Festival 2018 a huge success with the conversations, interactions and artwork that showcased the developments, explorations and creativity of digital culture. Stay tuned for the latest news and to find out how you can get involved in Brighton Digital Festival 2019.
Find more photos from BDF18 here.
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